Saturday, March 2, 2013

Day Sixty-one - Miao Miao, or "A Shoujo/Shonen Ai Student Film walks into a Bar."

I think, if you were to walk into the Shoujo section of a major manga store in Akihabara (or Taipei, maybe, though I'm unfamiliar with Taiwan's bookstore offerings) and pointed in a random direction, you could probably find a heartbreak love triangle story with the same basic framework as Miao Miao.

I know that's a bit harsh, but Miao Miao is more than a bit cliche... and, sadly, very light on depth and characterization.

Miao Miao tells the story of a Japanese exchange student who goes to study in Taiwan and initiates a friendship with the bubbly Xiao Ai. They both have paper cutout family problems: Miao Miao's grandmother has Alzheimers and Ai has a poisoned relationship with her father since the day several years back when she caught him with a woman. Really, the drama is immature and forced.

Things seem to be setting up Miao Miao and Ai for a Yuri love story when Miao Miao spots a brooding record store owner and starts fixating.

That's kind of where the cliches switch gear and we're torn back and forth between the clerk, Chen Fei, and his flashbacks and the present day with the girls. See, it seems the Chen Fei, despite being the object of Miao Miao's secret affections, is running from the fact that his good friend Bei (who is eventually revealed to be his lover) is dead and has given up music... all of it... as punishment.

The flashbacks are jarring... one minute, we're watching the girls and seeing Ai obviously head over heels for Miao Miao, who is of course oblivious, and the next we're in a bathhouse in the past where Bei is confessing his love to Chen Fei. No real transition other than a fade out... no clue that it's the past... you just sort of have to play along.

And these are the two major problems with this film... it has terrible direction and terrible writing.

Now, maybe it's just that I'm a Westerner and I'm missing some particular stylistic choice of Chinese cinema, but I'd like to think I'm open to international film.

The flashbacks aside, I never really felt any intimacy.

The girl's bond supposedly grows thanks to brief music sequences that focus on their handholding... which could be sweet if it weren't the entire focus of their connection, Miao Miao's Sunshine Hands (which are warmer than others). The full extent of their fights over the course of the movie is one not showing up to school for a few days. There's no real connection between them... though Ai does seem to try.

The same thing can be said for Chen Fei and Bei's sequences. A lot of the time, I had no idea what they were going for. The dialogue directly confirms the supposed romance several times, but it never feels anything more than an acting exercise for the two men. Even the big "stolen kiss" scene is like watching a three year old lay a light one on a friends cheek. Now, that's not to say that I wanted to see thighs slapping or anything, but c'mon... I've seen more passion from a pair of goldfish.

Miao Miao is a damn boring film.

Granted, it's nice to see LGBT movies coming out of China, but there was little to no heart in the film. The passion was either fake or entirely absent. Maybe it is groundbreaking to have gay film coming out of China, but you're entirely better off going to the shoujo aisle in a bookstore and pointing in that random direction.

I hate to be suspicious, but I have to wonder just how hard they were censored. It's difficult not to think that this film was limited by whatever government watchers hold the blue-pencil in Hong Kong. Still, even if I weren't leery, the film fails just on direction. From strange slow motion shots to randomly puerile music montages to a complete lack of connection between any of the leads in their romances, I can't recommend Miao Miao to most anyone.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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